After a few shocking conversations with mums of newborns recently, I thought it was about time someone came out and told the truth. Here's my guide to the first six weeks.
1. Human babies, like all animals, are designed to be breastfed on demand. Period. Ignore any advice which suggests the odd bottle of formula, or even expressed milk, is OK. It's really not, persevere with the breastfeeding, get whatever help you need, every extra day confers immeasurable health benefits on both baby and you. Offering rubber teats and fake milk will, by definition, contribute to the break down of your breastfeeding relationship.
Want to express so your partner can give a bottle during the night? OK, but your milk supply will reduce as a result, even if you express during the day. Been told that your 'hungry baby' needs to 'top up' with formula? But if you were offering a feed as often as possible your supply would increase. Just breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed. Which brings me to the next point...
2. Primates have evolved to keep their young close to them at all times, usually by carrying them on their front or back. This facilitates bonding, breastfeeding, enables communication (yep, even newborns communicate!) and ensures healthy development for baby. So that means being with your baby all the time, whether awake or asleep. It means watching your baby's cues and responding to them. And sorry, playing pass the baby damages that. For the first 6 weeks there should be only two people handling that baby, its parents. I would even go so far as to say keep all visitors away for the first two or three weeks, just the three of you on Babymoon is the best start you can give your family.
3. Newborns sleep as and when they need to, fact. Just embrace it - and join them! Notice on the door, curtains drawn and sleep. F*ck the housework! Babies are born with low levels of melatonin so have absolutely no concept of day and night. Their melatonin levels reach the equivalent of an adult's at about 12 weeks. Before then there are two ways to boost melatonin, expose baby to daylight as much as possible, and breastfeed. Breast milk is rich in melatonin, formula isn't. Babies sleeping has nothing to do with routines and bedtime preparations and everything to do with what their Mother's do naturally.
So guess what, we came full circle! Looking after a newborn is fairly straightforward if you abandon all concepts of routines and your previous normality. Embrace your baby and their first six weeks - literally - and enjoy it! Those first weeks will be gone in the blink of an eye, and you will remember the fleeting expressions on your baby's face, their smell and their soft skin far longer than you will remember the fact that granny sulked at not being allowed to change a nappy or give a bottle, or that you slept every afternoon and nursed whilst watching a box set from 2am to 5am every night. Who cares what everyone else thinks if you have raised a beautiful, healthy, well-adjusted baby. Enjoy!